(This page will include those articles from the old blog concerning selection of equipment and arms for the irregular warfighter.–J.M.)
SOME NOTES ON INDIVIDUAL SMALL-ARMS SELECTION
(I read a lot. I average anywhere from 8-10 full-length books a week, in addition to a host of websites and forums that I check daily. Amongst the several hundred other books that I own, two that sit on my bookshelf in the living room are, by many in the “survivalist/gun/patriot/militia/threeper” community, considered the go-to references for selecting firearms for the challenges of the future.—J.M.)
When you consider the amount of vitriolic debate that goes on amongst gun enthusiasts, considering caliber selection and firearms selection, in regard to the “ideal” survival firearm paradigm, it’s no surprise that someone wrote a book to help narrow the selection. Between the hundred year-old debate on the weakness of the 9mm Parabellum, versus the manliness and obvious lethality of the .45ACP, and the current, equally absurd arguments regarding the Kalashnikov platform versus the AR-15/M-16 platform, these conversations go on, and on, and on, ad nauseum. So, we have two notoriously famed books, considered by many to be the ultimate references on the subject: Survival Guns by the late, famed survival writer Mel Tappan, and Boston’s Gun Bible (BGB) by “Boston T. Party,” of the “Free State Wyoming Project, in attempts, decades apart, of solving the dilemma of “what is the perfect firearm?”
(I never got the opportunity to meet Mel Tappan, as he died when I was a very, very young child. I have met Boston, in passing, at the range, although I haven’t seen him shoot, as he seemed far too busy telling the shooters how to shoot, instead. So, my implied critique of their work, in this article, is not intended as a personal attack.)
Boston, to his credit does state, in the book, that BGB is “a catalog of one civilian’s experience and opinions.” Unfortunately, he then goes on to demonstrate that, he knows exactly nothing about personal combat. After explaining his lack of professional credentials in the military or law enforcement, he asks, “So, what? Did you learn to drive from Al Unser?”
How is this a demonstration of ignorance? Driving your personal vehicle, in daily traffic, in accordance with the rules of the road, is not at all comparable to racing a Formula One racecar around the track at Indianapolis Speedway at 200-plus miles per hour. The skills necessary are similar, but the level of expertise required is not at all similar.
On the other hand, shooting a roomful of MS-13 home invaders, confronting a barricaded active shooter at your local shopping mall, or repelling an armored, jack-booted swarm of Stasi-wannabe storm troopers at a VCP, requires not only the same skill sets, but at the same level, as those required by a Ranger Regiment gunfighter kicking in a door in Khandahar, or an SF soldier clearing a cave complex in the Hindu Kush. Ultimately, while many of the political and philosophical arguments laid out by Boston, and Tappan, for that matter, are inarguable, their dogma surrounding firearms selection is flawed, due largely, to their lack of real-world experience.
There is a reason that this type of manual is not being written by veterans of Special Operations units. It’s simply not necessary. The arguments concerning caliber and weapon selection are, ultimately, nothing more than gun tabloid marketing nonsense. An 18Bravo, Special Forces Weapons Sergeant learns to operate, maintain, and train others to operate, a broad variety of individual small arms from around the world (as a personal example, over the course of my career in SF, I worked with the M9, P35 BHP, 1911A1, Glocks, SIG-Sauers, Makarovs, Tokarevs, and several variations of different revolvers; Uzi, Skorpion, M3 “Grease Gun,” Thompson, M12, PPSh41, MP5, and other sub-machine-guns; and HKG3, FN/FAL, M14, AK-variant, M1/M2 carbine, Enfield .303, and 1903 Springfield rifles, amongst a host of others). When conducting UW or FID missions, an 18B will learn, quickly, that the caliber of individual small-arms really does not matter. The manufacture and model of the weapon can make a difference, but ultimately, the only thing that matters is the man holding the weapon and his level of training.
To their credit, both Boston and Tappan attempt to make this fact abundantly clear. Unfortunately, they both then go on to discuss the criticality of caliber in choosing a firearm. The reality is, outside of the special applications, heavy sniper system, caliber is largely irrelevant.
7.62x51mmNATO/.308 does possess slightly better ballistics at long-range than 5.56mmNATO/.223. If you plan on always engaging at 800 yards, that may be a factor. If that’s the case however, .300Winchester Magnum, offers even better ballistics at those ranges. For the realistic issue of guerrilla small-arms however, there are some significantly more important issues to consider.
Guerrilla re-supply in the potential future conflict will be largely through battlefield recovery. Thus, selecting a caliber that is in common use by the regime security forces is critical. The ability to pick up a dead enemy soldier’s primary weapon and utilize it will also be an important issue.
There is nothing wrong with owning a variety of firearms, even “evil assault rifles.” If you like the AK-platform, or the M14/M1A, or the FN/FAL, or the HKG3, or the Galil, use that. Master it. Do not, however, get hung up on the supposed superiority of your chosen platform. Learn to run other platforms. Master them as well.
The same applies to personal handguns as well. 9mm, .45ACP, .40S&W; the caliber is ultimately irrelevant when the issue is purely anti-personnel lethality. Pistols are largely irrelevant as man-stoppers anyway, all claims as to the “knock-down power” of the .45ACP notwithstanding. The only caliber selection issue that may arise in the future is battlefield recovery, which means choosing a caliber common in your area, or within the U.S. military. The argument can be made however, if you are picking up ammunition off dead bad guys, you can just pick up their weapon too.
The only important issue in weapon and caliber selection is completely unrelated to caliber and weapon engineering. The important issue is training. The ability to operate your chosen weapon selection at an expert level is far more critical than what that weapon system is.
Some personal thoughts:
I don’t have a problem with the AK-variants, for what they are: weapons that were designed (don’t buy into the Soviet mythology of a lone armor corps tanker tinkering in the mechanic shop to design a rifle from scratch) and mass-produced by a totalitarian regime for the use of illiterate, largely third-world peasants en masse. It truly is as robust as an infantry carbine can be, although nowhere near as invincible as the myth-makers would like you to believe. They DO malfunction. They can be destroyed.
The AK is not a weapon for riflemen. It is capable of “minute-of-man” accuracy, which is more than adequate for urban guerrilla needs. It will not do for most alpine guerrilla personnel, due to its largely non-existent intermediate-distance capabilities.
The 7.62x39mm caliber of the original design of 1947 is not the man-killer it is made out to be in some circles. As a SF colleague pointed out once, “We’ve killed a lot more little brown people with 5.56 than the little brown dudes have killed with 7.62×39.” It is a hard-hitting round and will do damage. The Russian adoption of the 5.45×39 caliber with the AK-74-variant is a telling manifestation of the improvement of the small-caliber cartridge over the heavier round, for the realities of modern conventional and unconventional warfare operations. Most infantry combat will occur at 0-200 yards, with the occasional need to reach out to 500-plus yards in some environments. Even the ballistic abilities of the 7.62×39 cartridge illustrate this. Roughly the equivalent of the ever-popular .30-30 deer rifle cartridge, the Russian round is realistically limited to 200 yards for consistent point target, first-round hits.
The 7.62x51mmNATO cartridge, which has been popular since its introduction concurrent with the M14 rifle, is a great all-around cartridge. While this round possesses 95% of the ballistic capabilities of the venerable .30-06, it has significantly reduced recoil and operates in box magazine-fed rifles far better than the older, rimmed cartridge. The ballistics of the round make it a consistent performer out to 800 yards, and in capable hands, hits have been recorded, under combat conditions, well in excess of 1200 yards.
The drawback of the cartridge, as it was in the 1950s, is the weight, both of the cartridge itself and of the weapons that utilize it. While, in certain applications, this is not an issue, for the guerrilla fighter, this is a critical issue. Theorists can argue the importance of the “one-shot kill” and the ability of the 7.62mmNATO round to kill with every round, but experienced warfighters acknowledge that the chances of regular, first-round hits on moving targets, hiding behind cover, under combat conditions is largely the realm of fantasy and Hollywood.
Far more important an issue is proven combat-lethality, combined with a light enough weight to facilitate carrying a large basic load. The 210-round “basic load” of the Army for conventional-force infantryman is far superior to the 120-round basic load that was historically carried with the M14. Even accounting for the misses that will occur in combat, this allows the war fighter to kill more of the enemy than the basic load with the M14, with a lighter load.
As far as questions regarding the supposed lack of lethality in the 5.56mmNATO cartridge: I’ve never shot a bad guy, where I was supposed to shoot him when it didn’t result in said bad guy being dead afterwards. The only time I’ve ever seen the round fail to kill the enemy was when the only rounds to strike the enemy were peripheral strikes. Even these however, will stop a threat long enough to put a “finishing” round into the guy if necessary. I have no doubts about the effectiveness of the 5.56mmNATO cartridge. With the development of new, improved offerings in this caliber, such as the MK262 77-grain round and MK318 improved 62-grain round, this caliber will find a new lease on life within the military and police, as well as within the civilian shooting community.
The AR-15/M-16 family of weapons, despite birthing pains during the Vietnam War, is a time- and combat-proven combat weapon. I have fired hundreds of thousands, if not millions of rounds, through this platform, in training and combat, and have never had it fail me. In swamps and jungles, mountains, deserts, and urban environments, I’ve never had the round or the weapon system fail me. I will, personally, stick with the AR-15/M-16 platform, for the foreseeable future, both due to my familiar expertise with the weapon, as well as my faith in its reliability and effectiveness.
If I had to choose a personal primary small-arm in 7.62x51mmNATO, it would not be the venerable favorite of American gun writers, the M14/M1A. While a competent and accuracy-capable weapon system, the reality is, it is large, heavy, cumbersome, and horrendously non-ergonomic. Further, a fact little heralded in the U.S. firearms media, during the Army Ordnance Board tests that resulted in the adoption of the M14, it was soundly trounced by the Belgian FN/FAL. If I had to choose a rifle in that caliber to run for my personal use in the guerrilla warfare paradigm, I’d actually choose the Belgian rifle. It is reliable, combat-proven (something the M14 cannot really claim, despite some use in the earliest part of the Vietnam War), and commonplace internationally (it was, after all, adopted by over 90 different nations, earning the sobriquet “Freedom’s Right Arm!”). You can expect that, when the regime calls on the U.N. for assistance in putting down any potential future “rebellion,” there will be some people in blue helmets, carrying FALs. The introduction of modern, U.S.-manufactured aftermarket accessories for this platform by companies like DS Arms others, has capitalized on the popularity of the modularity of the AR-15/M-16 by developing similar abilities for the FAL (I should add that, the more I play with them, the more enamored I am of some of the non-Armalite AR10 variants. I think an 18″ barreled .308 AR-variant is my next counter-sniper platform). While I am not a fan on accessorizing a fighting rifle with anything that changes the basic manual of arms of the platform (no Magpul BAD levers, ambidextrous safety selectors, etc.) due to the training issues if you need to pick up someone else’s rifle of the same type, the ability to build your personal rifle to fit you is definitely a desirable commodity.
These issues having been raised, do not mistake them as imprecations against other battle rifles. I would not refuse an AK-variant, or a HKG3, or an M1A, if that’s what I needed to pick up and run, in order to continue the fight. The ultimate weight of the struggle still resides on the shoulders of the individual fighter.
The same issues arise with the sidearm. The reality is, as has been determined over and over, ad nauseum, by the militaries of the world, the pistol is largely irrelevant in military/paramilitary combat. That having been said, as the man pointed out, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to the individual soldier who suddenly needs a sidearm and happens to have one on his hip. I carried a pistol in the field from the first moment I was afforded the opportunity, and never regretted the extra weight.
For the guerrilla fighter, the possession of a pistol is even more important. Besides the obvious ability to continue the fight despite malfunctions of the primary arm, in the absence of supporting fires, there exists the very real need for the guerrilla to be able to go armed clandestinely, when the rifle would create too much of a visual signal, and result in compromise to security forces.
While I personally choose to carry a Glock (Model 19, since I know you’re dying to ask), due to the time-proven reliability of the weapon, I don’t think it’s some sort of magical Austrian talisman. I’ve carried the M9, the 1911A1, Sig-SAUERs, and even a Makarov on more than one occasion. Whether you stick to the ridiculous old notion of “never carry a pistol that doesn’t start with at least the number four,” choose a 9mm Parabellum, or some off-the-wall cartridge like 7.62×25 or .454 Casull, the subject of caliber and model are largely irrelevant. At handgun distances, they’ll all make a hole. The only issue of importance is developing the ability, through training, of using the weapon effectively and efficiently, under combat conditions.
If you’re still hung up over the issues of caliber and model selection of your primary arms, you’re spending too much time on inconsequential non-issues. Quit worrying about which weapon to use, and master as many as you can, in the context of the likely combat paradigm you will be required to use them.
Somewhere in the mountains
EQUIPPING THE GUERRILLA FIGHTER, PART ONE (The Survival Load)
The guerrilla fighter is a true light-infantryman in the classical sense of the term. He is essentially, a woodsman-scout. The guerrilla operates in a manner that emphasizes the expert use of his personal small-arms, the use of stealth in all of his movements, using the available terrain and cover to counter the supposed technological advantages possessed by regime forces, and an expert grasp of the fundamentals of small-unit, “hit-and-run” maneuver warfare.
The guerrilla possesses the trained ability to operate day and night, over varied, broken terrain, using his field-craft expertise and whatever technological assets are available to him, to escape enemy observation until he chooses to attack. When he moves, the guerrilla moves from one position of concealment to the next. He strives to utilize appropriate movement techniques to maximize the value of masking terrain. When not changing positions, the guerrilla remains motionless and hidden from observation by regime forces that may possess the most advanced STANO (Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Night Observation) tools available. Like his woodsman-scout forebears, the guerrilla carries only the necessities to ensure his survival and combat effectiveness. Additional, unnecessary weight leads to excessive, accelerated fatigue, impedes and slows movement, and leads to a compromising over-reliance on the technology represented by the equipment, rather than his native wit and skill in field-craft.
The light-infantry paradigm is not found in Stryker Armored Fighting Vehicles, or even HUMVEE-mounted convoys to a disembarkation point two kilometers from an objective (although both of these certainly possess value in their own right). The light-infantry paradigm is found in field-craft, mobility, tactical expertise, and marksmanship. The ability to sneak inside the enemy’s reactionary gap un-noticed, strike with overwhelming violence-of-action at his weakest points, and then disappear into the surrounding environment before a reaction force can be mustered, is the key to interrupting the enemy’s OODA loop. This “hit-and-run” ability is the chief tactical advantage available to the irregular, small-unit force.
Conventional force militaries no longer possess a true light-infantry capability. The fundamental problem, over-burdening foot-mobile infantry soldiers has existed nearly as long as armies have existed. The modern development of advanced technological war-fighting assets has exacerbated the problem rather than remedying it. Despite the best efforts of military logisticians and theorists, the load of infantry forces has continued to increase. The modern, conventional-force “light” infantryman is often required to carry loads far in excess of 120 pounds, even when operating in difficult, broken, and steep terrain such as the alpine environment of the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan.
The load of infantry forces has been a subject of intense study since the 1700s, and is still a problem that has never been resolved. Technological advancements in weapons, STANO, communications, and personal protective equipment have added to the soldier’s load. This has only been partially mitigated by advancements in load-bearing technologies and attempts at miniaturization.
According to an unidentified infantry first sergeant of the 187th Infantry Regiment (“Rakkasans”) of the 101st Airborne Division, concerning load-bearing during Operation Anaconda during 2002,
“We had extreme difficulty moving with all of our weight. If your movement would have been to relieve a unit in contact or a time-sensitive mission we would not have been able to move in a timely manner. It took us 8 hours to move 5 klicks. With just the vest (Interceptor Body Armor vest) and LBV, we were easily carrying 80 pounds. Throw on the ruck and you’re sucking.”
Studies conducted by the United States Army following World War Two found that the average infantry rifleman had carried approximately 55 pounds during movements in the field. These studies concluded that this was the maximum weight for an approach-march load that would still allow the fighter to fight effectively when he got to the fight. A decade later, a follow-on study determined that this still applied, but allowed for a maximum 48 pound fighting load in actual combat, if carried by a conditioned fighting soldier.
The fighting load is doctrinally defined as the actual load carried by a soldier during combat. The approach-march load, on the other hand, is the load carried by the soldier in order to get to the fight. It includes the necessary equipment to survive until he gets to the objective.
Despite the advances made as a result of these studies, by 2003, soldiers engaged in dismounted combat operations in the mountains of Afghanistan were carrying a 60-80 pound fighting load and an approach-march load that was often (during true dismounted operations, rather than vehicle-based patrols) in excess of 130 pounds. The heaviest loads, typically carried by M240 assistant machine-gunners, were often in excess of 150 pounds. These figures, it is important to remember, are the doctrinal loads, and do not include the almost inevitable inclusion of personal items by individual soldiers.
As the previous quote from the Rakkasan first sergeant illustrates, today’s conventional-force light-infantry soldier simply cannot move fast with his doctrinal load. Additionally, these loads were developed based on a regular re-supply via rotary-wing aircraft or ground-vehicle convoy every 48-72 hours.
The guerrilla fighter will not have these support assets. He will be forced to live out of his rucksack almost exclusively, with his re-supply provided by previously established caches hidden throughout the operational area. The guerrilla light-infantryman must overcome these liabilities. The ability to function as a woodsman-scout will be absolutely crucial to the survivability of the guerrilla fighter.
The survival load/fighting load/sustainment load model is a useful framework for the logistics planning of the future guerrilla. The surest way for the guerrilla to maximize his ability to apply his light-infantry capabilities is to minimize his load-bearing requirements while utilizing re-supply caches and safe-houses throughout the operational area.
The survival load is the items that the individual warfighter carries on his person, either in hand, in his pockets, or on his belt, but not attached to the fighting load-bearing equipment. The concept behind the survival load is that it will allow the operator to escape and evade hostile pursuit and survive indefinitely, if not comfortably, long enough to return to the control of friendly forces. For the guerrilla fighter, this is the perfect goal for the survival load. While the guerrilla is unlikely to conduct combat operations without the benefit of his fighting and survival loads, there are numerous reasons that he may need to have mastered the survival load concept. Whether conducting a clandestine infiltration of denied, regime-controlled territory to conduct an operation, or simply the need to dump all of his personal gear in order to run faster while trying to escape an overwhelming enemy force while breaking contact, the guerrilla must develop and carry a survival load that takes into account his personal field-craft and knowledge.
Too often, even among survival “experts,” the solution to the survival load idea is misinterpreted as a hardware issue. The trend to rely on a survival “kit” is not the answer. The guerrilla fighter should never rely on the “Altoids can survival kit.” Instead, the focus should be on the effective use of the tools he would normally carry on his person, facilitated by proper field-craft and survival knowledge. As in everything for the guerrilla, software trumps hardware.
At its fundamental level, the survival load consists of:
· Sidearm. In extreme evasion scenarios, or covert operations conducted in regime-controlled built-up areas, this will function as your primary arm. The primary attributes necessary are that it be utterly, unfailingly reliable, and readily concealable. Because of its role as a personal defense weapon, perhaps in direct-action combat missions, as opposed to simple self-defense against one or two hostiles, a magazine-fed, high-capacity semi-automatic pistol is the ideal choice.
· Knife. This is a field-utility knife. While the possibility of its use as a combative weapon should not be overlooked, this knife is far more likely to be used for fire-building, shelter and hide-site construction, and the manufacture of traps and snares under survival conditions than it is to be used for silencing enemy sentries by stabbing them in the throat. While a fixed-blade knife may be the ideal, a stout folding knife, kept suitably sharp, more than adequately fills this role, while simultaneously being eminently more concealable (in the interest of intellectual honesty, I feel obligated to note that I carry a Cold Steel push-dagger for an EDC knife, and generally have no fewer than three folding knives on my person at any given time. As a team sergeant once pointed out to me, “Sergeant Mosby, a man can just never have too many knives on his-self!” My Victorinox Swiss Army knife probably gets more daily use than any other tool I own, of any sort. –J.M. Additional Note: I’ve since dispensed with carrying the push-dagger.–J.M.)
· Sun/Safety Glasses. In the mid-1990s, the Ranger Regiment issued Ray-Ban sunglasses as part of a new Ranger’s central supply issue. Nevertheless, Rangers were not allowed to wear them, because it was considered non-uniform (WTFO? I never did understand that. –J.M.). Today, thanks to the advances developed by operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of safety lenses is generally accepted as mandatory. Polarized, tinted lenses during daylight, with ANSI Z87 safety ratings will increase visual clarity, reduce eye strain and fatigue, and protect the war-fighter’s eyes from battlefield debris and some shrapnel. The two most popular manufacturers of “tactical” sunglasses are Oakley and Wiley X, but any tinted safety glasses will suffice, and may look far less conspicuous than the latest cool-guy, CDI selections from U.S. Cavalry (again, in the interest of intellectual honesty, I have to admit, I wear Oakleys for work, and Wiley X for daily wear. –J.M.)
· Cordage. Cordage is, rightly, considered a critical tool in the survivor’s tool kit. The simple truth is, there is no such thing as too much cordage in a survival situation. Many long-range surveillance units (LRSU, the operational descendants of the older LRRPs) and some ODAs, make it part of their standard operating procedure (SOP) to replace the laces in their field boots with 550 cord. It’s out of the way, readily accessible, and the operator is never without the requisite material to construct field-expedient shelters, snares, fishing lines and nets, and even poncho rafts for water-crossing operations (to this day, every pair of boots I own has had the laces replaced with 550 cord. –J.M.).
· Compass. While the woodsman-scout background of the guerrilla light-infantryman means the fighter should possess the ability to determine directions, at least roughly, without a compass, he should rarely, if ever, be without a compass. The ability to reliably traverse terrain that the enemy considers impenetrable is the strength of the guerrilla. Possessing a compass, whether a standard orienteering compass on a lanyard around the neck, or a simple button compass on a watchband, should be considered a necessity for the guerrilla, as part of his ability to escape and evade when needed.
· Fire Starter. This may be a simple waterproof match-safe stuffed with weather-proofed “hurricane-lifeboat” matches, a flint striker, or a flint-and-steel kit. The serious survival expert will never allow himself to be caught without some means that he can use reliably, to build a warming fire to stay alive.
· Water Purification. The final aspect of the survival load that can never be overlooked is the ability to procure or manufacture safe drinking water. Historically, evaders have suffered horribly from dysentery after being forced by necessity, to drink stagnant, putrid water infested with bacteria. It is critical that the guerrilla devise a method of purifying water on the run in an evasion scenario. With the prevalence of store-bought bottled drinking water, soda, and sports drink, the guerrilla should always be able to find a receptacle to carry his water, as long as he can purify it to make it safe for drinking. Whether a small container of iodine tablets, a filter straw, or a pocket-sized, “standard” water purifier, it is critical to possess safe, clean drinking water to stay alive, healthy, and effective ( I use a product called “ION Stabilized Oxygen” for water purification. I’ve used it all over the world, purifying water from stock tanks and ditches, without ever getting ill. It’s smaller, lighter, and more effective than any micro-filter I’ve ever seen or used, and I can keep a bottle in the pocket of my jeans without noticing it).
Different experts on survival will recommend different elements to add to the “survival load.” When considering it as part of a layered, tiered approach to guerrilla equipment however, a minimalist approach, reinforced by proper field-craft training and survival knowledge, will more than adequately provide the essentials needed to keep the guerrilla fighter alive during escape and evasion scenarios in the remote chance that he has to ditch his fighting and sustainment loads, or is compromised and forced to E&E during covert operations in denied territory that precludes the carry and use of the normal fighting load.
Part Two of this article will discuss the layout of the guerrilla fighting load, with Part Three covering the sustainment load. The final installment, Part Four, will discuss strategies for the construction and use of re-supply caches.
Somewhere in the mountains
EQUIPPING THE GUERRILLA FIGHTER, PART TWO (The Fighting Load)
(In the previous installment of this article, we discussed the implementation of a 1st line “survival load” for the guerrilla fighter. The overwhelming theme was, and should be, to minimize the amount of weight and equipment that the guerrilla carries to the minimum necessary. In this installment, I will delve deeper on a couple of the items of the survival load that are also de facto parts of the survival load. Further, we will discuss tactical equipment load-out elements of the 2nd line fighting load-out. –J.M.)
(The selection of tactical equipment in preparation for future social unpleasantness must be predicated on some major philosophical constraints. Among these is the recognition that the world and nation we have known is rapidly imploding around us. If this recognition exists, there are some critical issues that must be addressed.
The first of these is the degree of seriousness in one’s preparations. If it is simply a hobby, because you enjoy shooting guns, that’s okay. There is certainly nothing wrong with that in a free society. You don’t need to invest any more time or money than you fell like spending. You will get away with airsoft-quality gear and base-level, budget firearms and tools. However, if you genuinely believe that “bad times, they are a-comin’” then you have to look at your preparations in a far more serious light. In this brighter, more intensely focused light, then quality becomes a far more important issue. How much is your life actually worth? How about the life of your children and spouse? What about a successful restoration of the Constitution and the Republic?)
Keeping in mind the previously mentioned importance of maintaining the lightest load possible for the guerrilla fighter to operate in the woodsman-scout model, the foundation of the 2nd line fighting load-out is the load-bearing equipment (LBE). While it for a guerrilla fighter to toss a spare rifle magazine in his pocket, a bag of lunch and a blanket in a knapsack, and traipse off to war, experiences and battle damage assessments (BDA) conducted in Afghanistan have demonstrated that this is far from an ideal way to go about the business (on numerous occasions, following airstrikes on Taliban/AQ positions, SF ODAs have conducted BDA, and found dead enemy fighters with this very load-out). Such a poorly equipped soldier, regardless of the depth of his religious motivation, is a lousy match for a properly-equipped opponent with good training. While the guerrilla may spend a great deal of time in nothing more than his basic 1st line “survival load” while in secure areas or performing covert operations in denied areas, whenever possible, when conducting combat operations, the guerrilla should be wearing adequate LBE to complete his mission.
With the wide-variety of LBE available on the market currently, how does the concerned citizen or potential future guerrilla fighter determine the type of LBE set-up that might be ideal? Should he copy the equipment used by an infantryman of the 82nd Airborne Division or the 1st Marine Division? Perhaps a set-up like that used by a member of the Ranger Regiment or the SEAL teams would be more suitable? Considering the difference in missions, logistics support, and organization of all of these organizations, the argument should be obvious that none of these is an appropriate model for the guerrilla fighter.
The guerrilla fighter must base his load-out on the likely circumstances of his future operations. While it is obvious to most that future guerrilla forces will not possess the logistical support services enjoyed by conventional military forces, it is also important to realize that even many historical guerrilla models will not fit. The potential future American guerrilla cannot expect external support from friendly nation-states, such as enjoyed by the Viet Cong from the North Vietnamese and Chinese, the Iraqi insurgency from Syria and Iran, or that the Afghani resistance forces enjoy from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan via the services of the Pakistani ISI. Even during World War Two, the French Resistance, from whom this blog borrows its title, enjoyed a high level of material, moral, and technical support from the Allied Forces High Command. Instead, the American guerrilla will necessarily be forced to literally, “live off the land,” turning to his friends and neighbors, as well as battlefield recovery, for logistic support.
While the utilization of auxiliary support will facilitate the occasional use of vehicles for transportation of both personnel and supplies, the ability of the regime to utilize airborne and space-borne surveillance and reconnaissance assets for vehicle-tracking/pursuit, means that vehicular transport for the guerrilla combat force will, in many cases be extremely limited. The resulting necessary reversion to “primitive” light-infantry foot-mobile travel will act as a limiting factor in the fighting and sustainment load-outs of guerrilla fighters.
For several decades, the standard-issue load-bearing equipment of the United States military’s ground forces was the LC-1 and LC-2 “ALICE” system. Comprised of a wide, thick pistol belt with various equipment pouches and canteens hung off it, this system used a pair of suspenders to help hold the loaded belt around the soldier’s mid-section. The ALICE system was sufficient, if not ideal. Drawbacks included the fact that the ammunition pouches were cumbersome and slow to reload from, the canteens tended to result in occasionally disabling (and always annoying) chafing, and the general reality that the system was neither well-balanced on the soldier’s body, nor ergonomic.
In the middle 1990s, the Army’s Natick Laboratories, in cooperation with elements of the United States Special Operations Command and the U.S. Marine Corps (with the exception of some units in USASOC, the USMC amazingly adopted the MOLLE system before the Army did), began development of a new, modular, lightweight load-bearing system, referred to as MOLLE gear. This new system, and the advances that have been developed since, offered several distinct perceived advantages to the modern war-fighter. With MOLLE gear, equipment-carrying layout can be tailored to the needs of the individual war-fighter, rather than a doctrinal SOP, equipment can be spread more evenly over the fighter’s torso, reducing fatigue, and since it is held closer to the body’s center-of-gravity, the MOLLE gear offers considerably less of a hindrance to combat athleticism.
The current ready, inexpensive availability of the older ALICE gear on the military surplus market makes it an obvious, popular choice for many potential future guerrillas, as well as auxiliary support personnel to stockpile for future support of resistance activities. There is nothing wrong with this, but the reality is, for all intents and purposes, some variation of the MOLLE system is an effective leveraging of the currently available technology for the guerrilla to take advantage of.
The foundation of a MOLLE-based 2nd line fighting load-out comes in one of three basic forms: the plate carrier, the chest harness, and the new, “War Belt” configuration, based loosely on the older ALICE system.
Plate carriers, designed to carry ballistic protection against small-arms direct-fire threats, as well as load-bearing (with a notable exception that will be discussed below), offer one huge advantage over the other two options: they can save the guerrilla’s life by stopping enemy bullets! The use of body armor in current conflicts has saved an untold number of American lives from small-arms fire, as well as shrapnel threats from IEDs and indirect-fire weapons.
For the guerrilla fighter however, there are several mitigating drawbacks to plate carriers that must be considered. First among these is the fact that the weight of body armor may be detrimental to mobility for the foot-mobile guerrilla. While no one who has ever been on a two-way firing range will argue the inherent value of body armor, there are some within the military who have questioned whether some of the lives “saved” by body armor were not in fact, “saved” because they needed to be saved since they couldn’t move fast enough to exit the path of incoming fire.
Certainly, the use of a ballistic-protection “outer tactical vest” such as the Interceptor vest, with groin protection, side plates, deltoid protection, and throat guards are best left to vehicle-mounted war-fighters. The weight of these systems and the resulting decrease in mobility is what led to the development of what are now termed “plate carriers,” designed to hold a single plate in front of the vital areas of the torso, and another in the back. Currently, there are plate carrier systems available that, combined with ceramic, multi-hit protection, NIJ Level Three rifle plates, weigh less than 15 pounds (I don’t know about you, but I can run pretty damned fast, even with an extra 15 pounds on if I’m scared enough! –J.M.). The applications of a plate carrier in fighter survivability should certainly be considered when developing the 2nd line fighting load-out.
Chest harnesses, unlike plate carriers, are simply lightweight panels of nylon with MOLLE/PALS-compatible webbing straps, covering the front of the torso. While the chest harness suffers the obvious drawback of not offering any ballistic protection whatsoever, they do offer increased mobility due to reduced weight. The guerrilla can move much faster and possibly more quietly, with a loaded chest harness on than with the same load attached to, or over a plate carrier. In hot weather, the reduced weight and increased ventilation of the chest harness may be life-saving, due to the reduced risk of heat-related injury or death.
One major complaint about the chest harness MOLLE system in the recent past has been constant lower back strain as a result of the load being unbalanced towards the front of the torso. While this is correctly remedied by the addition of a small assault pack or filled hydration bladder on the back, a new model of MOLLE load-bearing gear was developed instead. The “war belt” or “battle belt” system involves the use of a MOLLE-compatible belt system, often (but not necessarily) supported by a set of suspenders with padded shoulder straps. This system has found a great deal of favor in the civilian tactical shooting world, and apparently among some contractors and special operations personnel.
One combination of these systems that has the potential to offer great benefits to the guerrilla fighter in the future is the use of a low-profile plate carrier, with no MOLLE webbing, that can be worn under a baggy sweatshirt or coat, for ballistic protection from rifle threats, with a chest harness that can be quickly donned if necessary, or the addition of a war belt system (while I currently train with a “normal” external plate carrier, and attached pouches for gear, I am seriously contemplating this idea, due to the theoretical ability to utilize the plate carrier, even during covert operations in denied-area, regime-controlled territory, that require no readily visible paramilitary signature. –J.M.).
The final decision of whether a plate carrier, chest harness, war belt, or combination system (or older ALICE system) is most suitable for a particular potential future guerrilla must be based on the needs and preferences of the individual, including physical fitness levels, preferences, perceived future missions, and of course, current budgetary limitations.
Regardless of the final choice of systems, if the guerrilla fighter selects a MOLLE-based system, the next important choice is the selection of a manufacturer. With the current demand for MOLLE-compatible LBE, for the war efforts, law enforcement militarization, and the civilian enthusiast, there are a vast number of companies producing MOLLE gear in one form or another. Unfortunately, this high level of demand also means the cost of quality MOLLE gear is still relatively high, especially when compared to older surplus ALICE gear. While it is possible to procure less expensive imported gear, it is imperative to remember that most of the imported equipment manufactured in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is intended solely for use by the recreational airsoft culture. (While it looks, at first glance, comparable to hard-use gear, relying on equipment intended for a kid’s game in a life-or-death situation is stupid. If the guerrilla chooses the cheapest airsoft gear he can find, and dies because of an equipment failure, I will personally make it a point to laugh at his funeral. Yes, I am an asshole like that! –J.M.)
(Domestic manufacturers of quality tactical MOLLE gear that I have personal experience with include—but are not necessarily limited to:
· Blackhawk Industries. Ironically, although much of their manufacturing now takes places in the PRC, the chest harness I have from them has had the ever-loving dog shit kicked out of it, and is still going strong.
· Eagle Industries.
· High-Speed Gear, Incorporated.
· Special Operations Technologies.
· Special Operations Equipment.
· 5.11 Gear. Although 5.11 is the least expensive of these manufacturers, I LOVE their gear. My 1st line pistol mag pouches are 5.11, as are some of my PC-mounted rifle mag pouches, and my assault pack. Not a single complaint from me.
· TAG/Shellback Tactical. –J.M.)
The guerrilla light-infantryman must consider the historical triumvirate of infantry duties: shoot, move, communicate. The necessity for mobility for the woodsman-scout paradigm of the light infantry leads to the oft-quipped line, “Travel light freeze at night.” While used as a self-mocking joke amongst infantrymen in the military, the humor is found in the truth. It is essential that the guerrilla ensure that every piece of gear on his fighting load is focused on the two tasks of shooting (fighting) and communicating.
The key phrase of “shooting” is actually intended to cover all of the actual tasks involved in fighting and killing the enemy. Primary among the logistical demands of this is, of course, ammunition for the primary personal small-arm, ideally a rifle. Opinions on how much ammunition the individual war-fighter should carry on his fighting load differs, based on who you ask and what their specific mission experience has been. Some tactical trainers insist that, for the armed citizen, no more than three or four rifle magazines will ever conceivably be needed. Former special operations sergeant-major Kyle Lamb (USA, retired) is an advocate of this approach, even for military special operations. As he explains in his excellent book “Green Eyes, Black Rifles,” three magazines of 30 rounds each, equals 90 rounds. Assuming it takes three rounds per bad guy to nail him to the ground, that still allows for 30 dead guys accounted for by each shooter before he runs out of ammunition. If a person is in THAT serious of a fight, then either he’ll have plenty of buddies around to borrow magazines from, or there will be plenty of rifles and magazines lying around to pick up. There’s quite a lot to be said for that argument, including the fact that such a minimalist load will do a great deal to ensure maximum mobility for the guerrilla light-infantryman.
On the other hand, unlike a military special operations soldier, the guerrilla does not have the option of counting on a regular re-supply of ammunition, nor the ability to readily call for a heli-borne quick-reaction force if help is needed. It is entirely possible, and far from uncommon, for every soldier in an unconventional warfare, small-unit element, such as an ODA, or a LRS team, to run through more than three magazines performing just one “Australian Peel” break-contact maneuver. Additionally, in the event of a contact, it is plausible that, while performing an exfiltration from the immediate battle area, a guerrilla unit could be forced into a further contact with pursuit forces, before having the opportunity to re-supply from a pre-positioned re-supply cache. It should be considered that the U.S. Army doctrinal “basic load” of ammunition, 210 rounds, could serve as a MINIMUM basic load for a guerrilla unit (As a young Ranger, I was blessed to have a squad leader who encouraged us to carry nine magazines on our old ALICE LBE, and one in the rifle. When I was an NCO, as an 18B, my personal rule was to carry 12 full magazines: one in my rifle, one in a “butt-cuff” pouch, and ten on my LBE. My current standard is 10 magazines: one in the rifle, one in a speed-reload pouch on my belt, and eight on my plate carrier or chest harness. All of my magazines are 30-round capacity, and all of my magazines are loaded to full-capacity. I’ve never suffered a malfunction due to the rumored propensity of 30-round M16 magazines to not function reliably with more than 28 in the box. –J.M.). While this certainly adds more weight to the load-out, the reduction in weight from other items that are unnecessary, attenuates this drawback. Considering the probabilities of being out-numbered and pursued by regime forces, it’s unlikely the guerrilla fighter will ever be carrying “too much ammunition.”
While a sidearm is considered part of the 1st line survival load, it should be noted that there are various options for carrying it, once the LBE is added. The obvious method for carry of the sidearm solely as part of the 1st line load is a concealed carry holster (Appendix, Inside-the-Waistband Glock 19 for me, since I know you were dying to ask, if I haven’t previously mentioned it. –J.M.). Once the guerrilla is carrying a fighting load, on LBE however, the facility of concealed carry holsters is greatly reduced. In these cases, any number of holsters might work, dependent on the preferences of the individual. It should be noted however, that it is important to remember that the sidearm is, ultimately a next-to-last-ditch weapon, followed only by the fighting knife and unarmed combatives. As such, it should remain attached to the individual, not the fighting load LBE (I have favored a drop-leg holster for as long as I’ve been able to carry a sidearm in the field. While some supposed internet “experts” deride these as suitable only for the airsoft crowd and “keyboard commandos,” this is ignorance speaking. Remember that this design was introduced to the world of gunfighting by none other than the British SAS. From the sands of North Africa in World War Two, to the Princess Gate hostage rescue, to the mountains of Afghanistan today, David Stirling’s boys stand second to no one as a fighting unit. The drop-leg holster is not intended to be worn hanging down to your knee like some Hollywood-mythic gunslinger, a la Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider.” It should be worn low enough to clear your body armor or LBE, but otherwise, as high as possible on the thigh. In such a position, it is more than adequately comfortable for long-term wear, and is still accessible when needed, as it will be when needed, in a hurry! –J.M.).
In addition to rifle ammunition and a sidearm (which is, ultimately, not to be considered any sort of mandatory item for the light-infantryman of any genre. While I would not forego my pistol to save a couple of pounds, there is legitimately, no reason for every war-fighter to “need” a sidearm…unless he feels he needs it), the 2nd line fighting load-out should include spare ammunition for the sidearm (I keep two spare magazines on my trouser belt as well.—J.M.) and a combat/utility knife.
The combat knife, like the 1st line survival load-out pocket knife, may very well see its primary usage for general field-craft and utility applications. On the other hand, it is far more likely than the 1st line knife, to be used in an anti-personnel role, so it should feature more characteristics of a “combat” knife. One perennially popular example among special operators (in my experience –J.M.) is the classic Marine Corps stand-by, the Kabar. Developed during World War Two and in constant service with the Corps since, the Kabar has a well-earned reputation as a general utility knife, as well as an effective fighting weapon (On the other hand, my personal choice is a Cold Steel push-dagger, despite the lack of utility for general field-craft chores. I carry plenty of utility knives. Since I have boxed for over 20 years, the delivery system of the push-dagger makes total sense to me, requires no difference in my combatives training program to use efficiently, and, well…I just like a push-dagger! –J.M.).
In addition to the actual weapons-specific fighting gear above, the last critical element of “fighting” gear on the fighting load-out of the guerrilla fighter should be an individual first-aid kit/”blow-out kit.” A serious injury or wound can be the single most mobility-reducing issue to impact the combat effectiveness of a guerrilla fighter. With the development of the military’s Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC or TC3) protocols, first adopted by USSOCOM in 2000, there exists a single, doctrinal methodology for providing battlefield aid to casualties that makes complete sense and takes into account the necessities of actual combat (If you are unfamiliar with these protocols, I suggest you spend some serious time studying and mastering them. They do, and will, save lives in combat! –J.M.). Predicated on actually receiving training in how to perform this protocol of care and wound management (preferably before getting into a firefight), an individual blow-out kit should be based around them. The equipment required is minimal, weighs very little, but will prevent death from most small-arms fire wounds if treated properly and rapidly. The TC3 protocols require trained medical personnel to execute above the basic, level one “Care Under Fire” guidelines, but in essence, should be considered an integral part of planning for medical care for the guerrilla force.
Beyond the fighting portion of the “shoot (fight), move, communicate” aspects of the 2nd line fighting load-out, the issue of communications within the guerrilla force should be considered. While there are ways to leverage the technology of two-way radios into the communications package of the guerrilla force/resistance effort, the communications security (COMSEC) protocols demanded are beyond the scope of this article. The use of two-way radios, especially FRS/GMRS radios (unlike many “survival” and “preparedness” writers, I recognize the weak transmission strengths of these line-of-sight radios as a strength, since it actually reduces the chance of successful signals intercept at any extended range. Further, in alpine environments, using ridge-top LP/OPs, the line-of-sight transmissions of these radios is more than sufficient for use in guerrilla base security networks. Additionally, their limited range is not an impediment for intra-unit communications needs. –J.M.) however, should never be allowed to overshadow the effectiveness and usefulness of written and/or oral communications, delivered via courier to the guerrilla force. There is a reason that guerrilla wars are referred to as “long wars.” Time ultimately, favors the guerrilla, if he maintains his security.
Ultimately, this is the fundamental load for the guerrilla 2nd line fighting load. While there are numerous other equipment items that could be useful for the guerrilla fighter to add, from STANO to breaching tools, these should be assessed on a mission-essential basis, and only added to the load, when needed or warranted. The above load, when combined with a 3rd line sustainment load, already exceeds the loads traditionally carried by historical guerrilla forces. The difference however, must be weighed.
Historically, guerrilla forces have not hesitated to “tax” the local civilian populace to support their efforts, as well as having been at a dramatic disadvantage due to the lack of available technological assets available. The potential future American guerrilla however, has no moral ground (in my opinion –J.M.) to tax the civilian populace, and should make every effort to leverage whatever technology he has available, as long as it does not in itself, become a burden by detracting from his field-craft skills and the application of true light-infantry tactics, techniques, and procedures.
Somewhere in the mountains.